Sunday, March 24, 2013


So sorry to leave you hanging this week. I have been in southern Florida and had every intention of blogging while I have been away. Unfortunately, I wasn't planning on having no internet connection and a spotty cell network. I promise to be back towards the end of next week and hopefully I have some great new recipes and photos to share! Thanks so mich for reading... And have a happy Sunday.   Love, Val

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New Lens, New Pictures

A few weeks ago, I ordered a new lens for my camera that my friend Bob convinced me I needed..and by convinced I mean that he really didn’t have to do anything but show me the lens. It is a Sigma 70-300mm macro lens and I really like it. My Hubby took me out strolling for wildlife one Saturday afternoon and it was like Mother nature knew what we were doing because the most gentle snow fall began just as we got to the woods.



These wild turkeys look so pretty wandering out in the field.

red tail hawk

I can’t believe I caught this Red Tailed Hawk at just the right time to get all those pretty colors. I was very happy with this photo.


This photo just means peacefulness to me. I love the little tiny snowflakes dotting the picture.


More Turkeys out in the field.


Now that I’ve shown you all these snowy pictures, I’ll warm you up a little bit since it’s the first day of Spring and all.




Happy Spring!..and Happy Wednesday.



Monday, March 18, 2013

Apple Upside Down Cake with Maple Cream Sauce

It’s that time of year again. The Midwest is making Maple Syrup by the gallons and I love every minute of it. Sunday was the annual Maple Syrup Day at our local nature preserve in East Central Illinois. I wrote about what fun we had last year and in case you missed the post, just click here.
This year was a little different. It was a lot colder, so we didn’t walk around much. We pretty much just grabbed our syrup and went home to our warm house where I came up with this recipe in honor of maple syrup time….
oohhh this is good and sweet and moist and mapley. (I don’t know if mapley is a word but I hear by declare it is, so there.)  It’s also super easy to make!
Take 2 1/2 Cups of flour, 1 tsp. of baking soda and 1 1/2 tsp. of baking powder and sift together..
Then add 1 tsp. of vanilla to 1 1/2 Cups of milk and set aside..
Next, with a mixer, beat 1 stick of butter until creamy and add 1/3 Cup of brown sugar and beat again until light and fluffy. Once the butter and sugar are all happy, add in 2 eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one really well.
Then add in the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter mixture. Start with the flour, adding in 1/3 of the amount, then half the milk, another 1/3 of the flour, the last half of the milk, and finally ending with the remaining flour. Mix until it just comes together. Then add in 1/3 Cup of maple syrup and mix until it is just blended in.
In a large bowl, mix 1 tsp. of cinnamon and 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup with 2 Cups of pealed and sliced apples.
Spread the apples out in a well greased 8 x 8 baking pan.
Pour the batter over the top and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Once the cake is done, let cool for 10 to 15 minutes and then invert onto a large platter or cookie sheet.
While your cake is baking, that is the perfect time to make the Maple Cream Sauce.
In a small sauce pan, heat 1/2 Cup of Maple Syrup to a simmer. Add in 2 tbsps. of butter and stir until melted. Then remove from heat and add in 1 can of sweetened condensed milk and mix until it is all well blended.
Once the cake is completely cooled, cut a piece and drizzle with the sauce and voila..
As Tom Petty would say, “Oh my my, Oh hell yes.”
I hope this inspires you to go and get some REAL maple syrup. …and support your local farmers or nature preserve or whomever makes maple syrup in your area.
Happy Monday.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Hair Color Redo..Before and After

I’ve been busy at the salon the last few days so I thought I would share with you one of the many cut and color jobs I did. I wish I could have shown you the corrective color I did on Tuesday, but unfortunately it took all of my concentration and the last thing I was thinking about was taking pictures. The little girl that came to me got into her friends blue hair color and it pretty much exploded all over her head. I have to say that I was pretty proud of myself when I not only got her hair color back to normal, but it looked natural too. It was actually a lot of fun since it was such a challenge to my hair color knowledge.
I had another transformation hair color come in on Friday and even though it wasn’t quite the challenge that the blue hair catastrophe was, it was still very rewarding when I finished. This is a friend and client of mine that had let her hair grow out a little too much between cuts and colors…hey, it can happen to all of us.
In the hair community we actually consider this a hair color correction even thought it doesn’t involve some sort of hair color mistake.
As you can see, she has about 1 to 2 inches of outgrowth and the highlighted part of her hair is a little washed out. She also needs a good cut.
My friend is a wonderful person and I couldn’t wait to give her a style and color that fit her personality. So, the plan of attack was to highlight her outgrowth, but also rebalance the blonde she already has with the new highlights. If I didn’t rebalance the color, her highlights would have a gradient look, ranging from blonde at the scalp to almost white at the ends. She also told me she wanted quite a bit of length taken off, but still wanted to be able to tuck her hair behind her ears. Here is what I came up with..
I think the new color and cut was successful, she loved it and I thought it not only looked better, but made her look younger and fit her spunky personality as well. Here is the before and after, side by side..
I love my job!
Happy Saturday.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Three Things I’m loving Right Now…

This is going to be really random so bear with me, but I wanted to share three things with you that I really love right now.
I love this cookbook for several reasons. The first being that it’s absolutely gorgeous, just take a look..
Secondly, I love it because it is arranged in seasons. I often cook by the season so I totally love this way of organizing the recipes in the book.
Thirdly, the recipes are totally scrumptious.
If you love beautiful, tasty, awesome cookbooks…this ones for you!
2. I’m so excited about…
Red hair color is impossible to keep from fading….usually. But if this stuff lives up to the hype, that will no longer be a problem!
The line includes:
Shamp’oil - Concentrated, oil-infused, ZeroSulfate formula maintains vibrancy and replenishes hair’s protective lipid layer to seal the cuticle and help reduce colour bleeding.
                                                            Reflective Conditioner - Gently detangles and restores the hair fiber to intensify light reflection for increased vibrancy and shine.
Illuminating Caring Oil - Helps seal the cuticle to lock in colour pigments and noticeably increases the vibrancy of red and copper shades.
Reflect Inhancer - Colour-depositing conditioning treatments help maintain the vibrancy of red shades between salon visits. When used weekly with Reviving Red Shamp’Oil, haircolour maintains vibrancy for 30 washes.*
This is awesome, exciting news and I can’t wait to use it and see how it works!
3. My favorite commercial..
I want to leave you laughing and this commercial is hilarious. I hope this makes you smile just for a few moments because I think we all know someone just like good old grandpa.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Peach Ring Martini

peach ring martini txt
I love Peach Rings. I want to love them and squeeze them and pet them and call them George.
(If you have no idea what I am talking about in that last sentence…well, I think you might be deported. But before you go, please watch this…..)

Now that we’ve all had a lesson in classic cartoons…on with the cocktails!
I was joyously eating my peach rings the other day when it occurred to me how awesome a drink that tasted like peach rings would be. After that I was on a mission, mixing and tasting (and getting slightly toasted) trying to find the perfect sweet/tart combination of the enigma known as the peach ring.  I think I finally got it, so now I will share this glorious creation with you.
Peach Ring Martini
Ingredients from L to R: Peach nectar, Lemon infused vodka (if you missed the post with this recipe, click on it!), and peach schnapps.
First, we want to make the glass pretty so take two plastic bags and put a couple of tablespoons of sugar in each bag. In one bag add a couple of drops of orange food coloring and in the other bag add a couple of drops of yellow food coloring and shake them up until they are brightly colored..
Then take a paper plate and dot the sugar around so it alternates on the plate.
Now, wet the rim of your glass and dip into the sugar.
I usually say that rimming the glass in sugar in optional, but in this recipe it is actually important. Peach rings have a sugary crust on them that you have to bite through and rimming the glass actually gives the drink the same effect.
Next, I threw a peach ring into the glass and then began mixing my drink.
Into your shaker, pour:
2 oz. of peach nectar
2 oz. of peach schnapps
1/2 oz. of lemon infused vodka*
*Can be substituted for a splash of lemon juice
Shake it like a polaroid picture and pour into the prepared glass.
peach ring martini 1 copy
There you have it, a sweet, tangy, peachy drink. You probably noticed that I garnished the glass with another peach ring because, well…you can never have too many peach rings.
It tastes as good as it looks! Enjoy.
Happy Monday.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Ruffle Scarf

I’ve been intrigued by all these pretty “ruffle” scarves that I’ve seen on women lately. They are so pretty, but I thought it was something that I couldn’t possible do myself, so I had resigned myself to looking to buy one instead of making one. Then a client of mine came into the salon wearing a pretty, ruffle, brown and blue scarf…and of course she made it herself. She told me how easy it was, so I decided to look into it further. I found a YouTube video that really explained everything very well, so I bought some yard and off I went, crocheting my way to a beautiful, ruffle scarf. 
Here is the fruits of my labor…
Not too bad, huh?!
It’s a little slow going at first, but once I found my rhythm, it was pretty easy, so easy that ANYONE can do it. Seriously.
Here is the video that I found to explain it all..

The yarn that I used is Bernat Twist ‘n Twirl in the color “Circus”
I found mine at Wal-Mart, but you can usually find it anywhere that yarn is sold.
It took me about 3 hours to complete my scarf, but I think it was worth it. I love it so much that I am getting ready to start a new one in black and white!
I hope this shows you how easy this little project really is and I am completely serious when I say..
If I can do it, you can do it!
Happy Friday.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

How To Dress Boys…Cheap!

Six years ago, when I found out I was going to give birth to a bouncing baby boy, I was in shock to say the least. I grew up with all girls and I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with a little boy. As we shared the news with our family and friends, I consistently heard over and over again;
“Awe, they just don’t make any cute clothes for boys.”
I started checking out all those children’s clothing stores and realized that they were completely wrong. There were plenty of cute clothes out there for boys. The real problem was that his wardrobe was going to be worth more than mine. By the time I purchased the pants, shirt,sweater, socks, and possibly the shoes or a jacket, the whole outfit was about the cost of my junior year prom dress. Add to that the fact that they wear everything a total of 3.2 seconds before they out-grow it and I was in heart failure.  ..and as both of my son’s have gotten older, it’s gotten worse.
I decided there was only one thing to do in order to not take out a second mortgage to dress my boys cute….
Replicate the outfits with cheaper clothing.
I’ve done this for quite a few years now and I have great success. I constantly get compliments on how my boys are dressed and I even have people tell me they want to buy the clothes when my kids are done with them.  While I am flattered that they think my boys look so cute, I am always chuckling a little because they have no idea that they are signing up to buy second hand clothes that have mostly come from Wal-Mart, Target, and Kohl’s. The brand name stuff in this house comes far and few between.
I figured out a few rules to dressing boys with cheap clothes but making them have a brand name look, all while saving major dollars.
1. Layers, layers, layers.
You’ll notice that in almost all of those ads for the expensive children’s clothing stores, they have layered the clothes.
2. Compliment or match the colors so the outfit looks like it was meant to be together.
Once again, this is a big theme in the brand name stuff and how they get you to buy the shirt, pants, and matching socks.
3. Buy your clothing so it’s all interchangeable with each other.
If you love your son in teal blue and purchase a whole outfit centered around this color, why not buy a couple other pieces with that coordinating color too? Then you can change out the clothes and look like you have several different outfits with only 6 or 7 pieces of clothing.
This Spring I began purchasing some clothing for my boys and thought I would share what I bought and how I went about putting the outfits together.  I found some pretty cute models hanging out in the living room watching cartoons, so it seemed like it was meant to be.
I purchased 4 shirts for these looks. Now, of course he can wear each shirt separately, but by coordinating all the shirts, I have exponentially increased the outfit possibilities.
blue polo
Target, $9.99
green henley
Target, $11.99
green sweatshirt
Target, $12.99
Kohl’s $7.50
I already had the khaki pants, but I thought I would offer a link to a similar item..
Target $16.99
So, for $42.47 I have the potential for at least 8 outfits.
Here is what I got for my youngest son..
Now, I don’t want you to think I don’t buy my youngest son as much as my oldest son, but we do hand me downs in this house, so my little one doesn’t need as much as my oldest. That being said, I couldn’t resist getting a couple new things for my little munchkin.
black sweatshirt
Target, $12.00
gray t
Target, $5.00
white polo
Target, $7.00
I already had the jeans, but here is a link to a pretty cute pair..
Target, $14.99
I spent $24.00 and now I have the potential for at least 5 outfits.
Also, I wanted to add that I received free shipping from Target and Kohl’s!!
By showing you these casual outfits I hope to give you some ideas of how to mix and match these cheaper clothes to give them a whole new look. Obviously they look cute by themselves, but layered with coordinating pieces, they almost look downright expensive.
Happy Wednesday.
p.s. Target nor Kohl's paid me to say this! I just like their clothes.